Valve knows video games like the back of a hand, and if you look up the most well-received games of all-time you'll see a few of their many success stories in the list. So how do they do it? Believe it or not, it sure as heck isn't management.
Gabe Newell, full-time co-owner and 24/7 hero at Valve, decided to comment on what makes Valve different and what makes the company a valuable home-run hitter. Among all things he listed the lack of management, or the development freedom if you will, as a key factor in driving creative titles to store shelves. But why? He replied:
Managers are good at institutionalizing procedures, but in our line of work that’s not always good. Sometimes the skills in one generation of product are irrelevant to the skills in another generation.
Nothing is worse than a game that tries to force what has worked in the past into a new era. Evolving along with the industry, if not before, is one thing Valve has always been good at.
If you're wondering what inspired Newell to promote a less top-down approach as opposed to the dozens of other developers bursting from the ears with management, here's you go:
But what was so shocking to me was that Windows was the second highest usage application in the U.S. The number one application was Doom, a shareware program that hadn’t been created by any of the powerhouse software companies. It was a 12-person company in the suburbs of Texas that didn’t even distribute through retail, it distributed through bulletin boards and other pre-Internet mechanisms. To me, that was a lightning bolt.
I guess I wasn't the only one inspired by Doom. I might not make killer games as a result, but I sure as heck can't stop playing first-person shooters now. Thanks id Software!
Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are the two titles Valve are currently concentrated on, but many of us are licking our chops for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and the inevitable Half-Life 3. If Portal 2 is any indication of how creative these games will be, it's worth getting excited a few years early.